Pair of Portraits of Sir James Robertson-Bruce 2nd Bt. and Ellen Robertson-Bruce

A pair of very well executed oil on canvass portraits of Sir James Robertson-Bruce and his wife Ellen Robertson-Bruce ( nee Hesketh ) painted in 1820 by Sir George Hayter the accomplished Royal Academy trained artist.

Sir James Robertson-Bruce, Bart born 6th September 1788 served at Waterloo in the Royal Horse Artillery under Major Beane’s Troop. He is painted in his uniform as an officer of the Royal Horse Artillery and as was made popular by Sir Thomas Lawrence in his famous portrait of Wellington, is seen with his cloak partially draped over the shoulders to allow viewers sight of his Waterloo Campaign medal proudly displayed on his left breast.

Sir James succeeded to the title of 2nd Baronet Bruce of Downhill, County Londonderry and married Ellen Hesketh in 1819. Ellen Robertson-Bruce is classically dressed in a white gown with a diamond pendant maltese cross stylised in the form of a peninsula gold cross. Her hair is coiffeured in curls to accentuate her features and her neck has been elongated as was clearly the fashion of the day by many court painters.

Hayter was the son of Charles Hayter, a miniature painter and popular drawing master who was appointed Professor of Perspective and Drawing to Princess Charlotte.

Initially tutored by his father, he went to the Royal Academy school early in 1808 but after a disagreement about his art studies ran away to sea as a Midshipman in the Royal Navy. His father secured his release and they came to an agreement that Hayter should assist his father whilst pursueing his own studies. In 1809 he secretly married Sarah Milton, a lodger at his fathers home ( Hayter was barely 15 or 16 and she 28 at the time ) the arrangement remained a secret until around 1811.

In 1815 he was appointed Painter of Miniatures and Portraits by Princess Charlotte and was awarded the British Institution Premium for history painting for the work Prophet Ezra. Around 1816 his wife left him for reasons which are not apparent. He subsequently began a relationship with Louise Cautly , daughter of Sir William Cautly with who he lived openly for the next decade and whom bore him two children, Angelo and Louise ( despite the fact he did not seek a divorce from his first wife ).

Encouraged by his patron John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford , Hayter travelled to Italy to study in 1816. There he met Canova, whose studio he attended while painting his portrait and absorbed Canova’s classical style. Canova was Principal of the Academia di San Luca ( Rome’s premier artistic institution and doubtless put Hayter forward for honorary membership on the strength of his painting “ The Tribute Money”. Hayter hence became the Academia’s youngest member.

Returning to London in 1818 Hayter practised as a portrait painter in oils, he showed a certain pomposity that irritated his fellow artists but he enjoyed the society of aristocratic families. His unconventional domestic lifestyle ( separated from his wife yet living with his mistress ) set him apart from Academy circles and as such he was never elected to the Royal Academy. Hayter was at his most productive in the 1820’s.

In 1826 Hayter returned to Italy and completed several important works most notable being “The Banditti of Kurdistan Assisting Georgians in Carrying off Circassian Woman” ( whereabouts unknown ) which was commissioned by John Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort and completed in Florence.

In 1827 his mistress Louisa Cautly died after poisoning herself with arsenic. Although it was apparently an accident, in a bid for attention, it was widely assumed that he had driven her to suicide. By late 1828 he was in Paris where his portraits of English Society were exhibited at the Salon in 1831.

He returned to England in 1831 and executed numerous portrait studies in oil . Having painted the young Princess Victoria, Hayter was not a surprising choice as the new Queen’s Portrait and Historical Painter. On the death of Sir David Wilkie in 1841 Hayter was appointed Preincipal Painter-in-Ordinary to the Queen which caused some annoyance at the Royal Academy as this appointment had historically been the preserve of the President , then Sir Martin Archer Shee.

Hayter was knighted in 1842. He painted several royal ceremonies including Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1837 and her marriage in 1840. His State Portrait of Queen Victoria ( Royal Collection ) displayed at Buckingham Palace perhaps represents the pinnacle of his success. Several significant examples of his work remain part of the Royal Collection. By the mid 1840’s Hayter’s portrait style was in decline and considered old fashioned.

Christies, South Kensington sale 4080 7th March 2006 featured an English porcelain plaque of the above picture of Ellen Robertson-Bruce signed Mme Boullanger 1825 inscribed on reverse in ink.

30” x 35” in contemporary gilt and gesso frames

£19,500.00

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